When Olmsted County starts taking applications for federal housing vouchers next month, the resulting list could be filled with people fitting defined preferences.

“The biggest one is being an Olmsted County resident,” Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn said.

People from outside the county can apply but will be required to move to Olmsted County if they receive the housing support under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program.

With applications only being taken online for a week starting Oct. 2, Dunn anticipates numbers will top the 500 names being sought.

If more than 500 verified applications are received, county housing staff will determine which meet the preferences defined by the Olmsted County Housing and Rehabilitation Authority board last year. Each preference category is given a point total.

The preferences are:

• Four points for Olmsted County residents.

• Two points for families who work at least 20 hours a week in Olmsted County, attend full-time post-secondary education classes in the county, or those having a member who is elderly or disabled.

• One point for families who are homeless.

Applications with preferences will be given first priority for a random drawing to be included on the list, but specific points won’t be totaled until the list is generated.

Dunn said once 500 applications are pulled, they will be ranked based on point totals. With up to seven points possible, he said county residents will always rise to the top of the list.

While preferences and qualifications will not be verified until a household is next on the list to receive a voucher, Dunn said any false information will likely result in the application being dropped from the program.

The Housing Choice Vouchers program, formerly known as Section 8, offers qualified households the ability to afford housing in the private market. Families can find housing with participating landlords and pay approximately 30 percent of the household’s annual income for rent. The federal program subsidizes the remaining cost by paying the landlord.

Olmsted County’s HRA has approximately 550 vouchers in use. When someone with a voucher moves off the program due to employment changes or other factors, the voucher can be passed to the next qualified household on the waiting list.

Dunn said he expects the local program will need new names by January, and the next list is being kept to 500 applicants to avoid the seven-year gap seen since the last list was created in 2012.

The 2012 lists started with 1,200 households, and 682 remained in early 2018.

In the past year, county housing staff have worked to determine who still belongs on the list, and the number has dropped to approximately 25.

“It wasn’t because we filled those vouchers,” he said. “It was because we couldn’t find those people or they didn’t qualify anymore.”

With keeping the next list to 500 names, Dunn said he hopes the county can reopen the list every two years.

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